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LettingInTheJungle

Illustration for "Letting in the Jungle" by David Ljungdahl from the 1915 Swedish edition of The Second Jungle Book.

"Letting in the Jungle" is a short story by the British author Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in the Pall Mall Gazette and the Pall Mall Budget in December 1894. The story was subsequently collected in The Second Jungle Book (1895).

At the end of the short story "Tiger! Tiger!", Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves, is back in the jungle having been cast out of the village where he had lived for a short time. In "Letting in the Jungle", Mowgli learns that the superstitious villagers are about to kill Messua, the woman who had adopted him, and her husband for being a witch and a wizard. When he finds Messua beaten and bound, Mowgli swears to make the villagers pay for their cruelty.

Plot

Mowgli returns to the cave in the jungle where he grew up. After a good rest, he tells Mother Wolf and Father Wolf about his time living among men in the village. Akela, the former leader of the Wolf Pack, and Gray Brother, the oldest of Mowgli's wolf brothers, recount how they drove the buffalo herd to help Mowgli defeat his archenemy, Shere Khan the tiger. Having been cast out of the village, Mowgli says he does not wish to have anything further to do with men. Akela, however, knows that men will not leave Mowgli alone. Akela says that, although he went back to obscure their trail after they returned home, he heard that one of the villagers followed them.

First Baheera the panther then the wolves spring to their feet as they catch scent of a man. Mowgli looks out and spots Buldeo the village hunter in the distance. Mowgli's wolf brothers are ready to attack, but Mowgli calls them back. Overriding the wolves' objections and asserting himself as the leader, Mowgli takes them on a path to intercept Buldeo. As they watch, Buldeo loses the trail and decides to rest. A group of men come by and sit down with Buldeo to have a smoke. Buldeo tells them the story of Mowgli the Devil-child. He not only embellishes the story but also lies and says that it was he who killed the tiger and that he witnessed Mowgli turn into a wolf. He then tells the men that the villagers have Messua, the witch who took in the Devil-child, and her husband held hostage in their house. After Buldeo kills the Devil-child, the witch and the wizard will be tortured and burned to death.

Mowgli asks his wolf brothers to sing to the men and keep them occupied to buy time while he goes to the village. He then asks Bagheera to help the wolves first and come to the village afterwards. Bagheera cries out a long hunting call. Mowgli sees the men huddle, with Buldeo pointing his gun around everywhere. Then the wolves begin to howl, causing the terrified men to climb trees and hide. Satisfied, Mowgli rushes to the village.

It is twilight by the time Mowgli reaches the village. The villagers are gathered under the village tree. Mowgli creeps along unseen to Messua's hut. Through the window, he sees Messua gagged and bound. Her husband is tied to the bed frame. There are four men on guard outside the door. Mowgli goes in through the window and unties the captives. Messua, badly beaten and in pain, sobs and hugs Mowgli. Mowgli is much affected by the sight of her blood and swears to make the villagers pay. He tells Messua and her husband to go into the Jungle. They tell him they are afraid to do so, and they also believe the villagers will come after them. Mowgli assures them that they will be safe and that the villagers will not follow.

There is shouting outside, and Mowgli knows Buldeo has returned. He goes outside to see what the villagers intend to do. Buldeo lies on the ground groaning, disheveled from climbing trees and running away from the "singing devils". He is putting on a show for the villagers. Mowgli knows the guards will leave Messua's hut and join the others, and nobody will do anything until they have heard Buldeo's wild stories. He goes back to the hut.

Mowgli is surprised to see Mother Wolf outside Messua's hut. Mother Wolf tells Mowgli she followed him to see the woman who gave milk to her favorite child. She looks in through the window and sadly realizes Mowgli belongs with men. Mowgli tells her to wait for him then goes inside. Messua tells him they have decided to go to Khanhiwara, a town thirty miles away, because the English are there and they do not tolerate people burning or beating each other. Her husband digs up some money he had hidden so they can buy a horse for the journey. As they leave, Mother Wolf comes out of hiding. Mowgli asks her to follow the couple and make sure they are safe. Messua's husband is afraid of the howling he hears, but Messua understands and trusts Mowgli. She urges her husband to go on.

As Messua and her husband disappear into the jungle, Bagheera comes to Mowgli. Bagheera has been singing with Mowgli's wolf brothers to scare Buldeo, and he is still purring with excitement. Leaping around and striking into the air, he boasts of his strength. In his fever, he tells Mowgli that he could beat his head flat with one blow. In human talk, Mowgli dares the panther to strike. It stops Bagheera in his track. Mowgli stares into the panther's green eyes until Bagheera drops his eyes then his head. Understanding it was just the excitement of the night that affected the beast, Mowgli strokes Bagheera's back and whispers that he does not blame him. Bagheera, who loves Mowgli, lies down penitently. He tells Mowgli he will go into the hut and scare the villagers when they come for Messua and her husband. He invites Mowgli to join him, but Mowgli has other ideas.

In the mean time, the villagers finally finish listening to Buldeo's stories. Ready to torture the witch and the wizard and burn down their house, they come to the hut yelling and waving clubs and sickles led by Buldeo and the priest. As they break down the door, they see Bagheera stretched out on the bed. The black panther yawns elaborately showing his teeth. The villagers flee in panic and shut themselves up in their houses. Bagheera jumps out of the window and rejoins Mowgli. Knowing no one will come out till the morning, Mowgli goes into the jungle to get some sleep.

Mowgli sleeps the whole night and day and finally wakes the following night. Bagheera tells him that Messua and her husband are about to arrive in Khanhiwara and that he has once again scared the villagers back into their huts. With the rescue mission complete, Bagheera asks Mowgli to forget about men and come back to the jungle. Mowgli, however, is not yet done with men. He asks Bagheera to bring Hathi the elephant and his three sons to him. Bagheera knows that the wise old elephant is not easily commanded, but Mowgli tells him to ask Hathi to come "because of the Sack of the Fields of Bhurtpore". To Bagheera's surprise, Hathi does come with his sons to see Mowgli. Mowgli begins to explain himself.

According to one of Buldeo's stories, an old elephant who was injured in a trap came back with his three sons and destroyed the fields and villages at Bhurtpore many years ago. Having noted an old scar on Hathi, Mowgli surmised correctly that it was Hathi and his sons who destroyed Bhurtpore. He asks Hathi to do the same to his village. Hathi says that he has no quarrel with the villagers and that, without the power of rage, he does not have the strength to tear down a whole village. Mowgli tells him to drive the deer, the pig, and the nilghai to destroy the fields first. Hathi is reluctant to smell blood again. Mowgli assures him there will be no killing involved, but he insists that men cannot stay. Shaking with rage and hate, he tells Hathi about the kind Messua whom the villagers were about to kill. Hathi understands why Mowgli wants the villagers driven away. He agrees to help.

Hathi and his sons march towards the village for two days before stopping for a week to feed. The jungle is abuzz with talk about the elephants. Then a rumor begins to circulate that there is better food and water in the valley where the village is located. The pigs begin to move towards the valley first, then deer and nilghai begin to migrate. Carnivores follow the herds so that the village is soon surrounded by animals. Then finally Hathi and his sons arrive at night. They knock down the platforms from which men watch over their crops. With the platforms gone, the deer and the pigs descend on the grazing grounds and the fields. Next the wolves move in to chase around the deer and the pigs.

In the morning, the villagers find their crops lost and the grazing grounds cleared. Their herds of buffalo disappear into the jungle in search of food. The few ponies left in the village are killed by Bagheera. The grain dealer's corn storage, which may have sustained the village till next season, is ruined by Hathi. The priest, believing they have offended the gods of the jungle, send for the chief of the indigenous people to find out what sacrifice to offer to the old gods. The chief silently indicates that the village is lost to the jungle and that the villagers must move to Khanhiwara.

The villagers stay on as long as they can, but they are eventually driven out. At the start of the rainy season, as the last of the villagers flee, Hathi walks around the village plucking off the roofs of huts. When a beam bounces back and hits him, the elephant becomes enraged. Accompanied by his three sons, he begins to tear through the village. At the urging of Mowgli, the elephants finally bring down the outer wall of the village completing the destruction.

By the end of the rainy season, the jungle has completely taken over what had been the village only six months earlier.

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